Feb. 18, 2006
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — At a clinic last summer, Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey was wearing a black pullover coaching shirt with the green “Fighting Irish” lettering across the chest.
“People kept telling me that it was a nice looking shirt, so it was my decision to make black uniforms,” Brey said. “We had them made earlier in the season and just waited for the right time to break them out.”
The Irish donned the black jerseys for the first time Saturday night as they faced host Seton Hall in a must-win situation. And they brought good luck for the Irish, especially for their backcourt, as Chris Quinn scored 34 points and Colin Falls had a career-high 32 to lead Notre Dame to a 102-91 victory over the Pirates.
It was the first Big East road win this season for the Fighting Irish (13-10, 4-8), who helped themselves tremendously in the battle to finish among the league’s top 12 teams – something the must do to qualify for the conference tournament in three weeks.
Quinn connected on all 14 of his free throws, including 12 straight over the final 2:34, en route to the second-best scoring output of his career.
“Our goal at this point is to get to the Big East tournament,” Quinn said. “Regardless of our record, even though we were once 1-8, not once did I ever lose confidence in this team. We’re still a confident group and we knew we had some work to do.
“It was a much needed win,” he said. “We’ve been flat out cornered and were still cornered, but this was a big win and gives us something to build on. Were just trying to get to New York City (for the tournament). We’re not getting ahead of ourselves at all. We’ve had our hearts taken from us a few times, so were glad to get this one and hopefully build on it.
The Irish made 33-of-38 free throws overall, including an impressive 27-of-30 in the second half. They also were 15-of-28 from 3-point range, including eight by Falls.
“I guess I like shooting here,” Falls said of Continental Airlines Arena. “It’s a shooters arena. I got some good looks and the shots just went down.”
Seton Hall (16-8, 7-5) was paced by a career-best 28 points from Donald Copeland and 20 from Jamar Nutter, while Paul Gause added a career-high 19 in a defeat coach Louis Orr blamed on his team’s poor defensive effort.
“We have to defend if we’re going to be at our best” Orr said. “We didn’t take anything away from them. They played to their strengths, they made their shots. We scored 91 points and that should be enough to win – but we didn’t have the defensive energy to stop them. They were hungry and did what they had to do to win.”
Kelly Whitney, who had 14 points and seven rebounds, agreed.
“We didn’t defend the 3-point line,” Whitney said. “We just didn’t defend period. Any time two guards go off for 66 points, you’re not playing defense. That speaks for itself.”
The two teams traded the lead early on before Notre Dame took control midway through the first half with an 8-0 run, capped by consecutive 3-pointers from Quinn and Carter. They remained firmly in command until Seton Hall rallied with a late 10-2 run – featuring seven points by Nutter – to cut the lead to 44-36 at the break.
Notre Dame, though, quickly took control again with an 8-0 run to start the second half, and the Pirates never got closer than eight points.
After the game, Falls said the team would don the black jerseys again when they face Connecticut on Tuesday night.
“Absolutely,” he said. “They’re lucky.”